Geographical Range Senegal to Ethiopia (in Africa)
Habitat Savannas, dry grasslands, deserts
Scientific Name Varanus exanthematicus exanthematicus
Conservation Status Not listed by IUCN

This large lizard has a long neck, powerful tail, and muscular limbs that end in strong claws. It can reach lengths of five to six feet. The monitor is active by day but often seeks the shelter of shady outcroppings during the hottest hours. Although it lives primarily on the ground, it can also climb trees and swim.

In addition to feeding on carrion (dead animals), a savanna monitor eats a variety of live prey, including insects and snails. When the monitor is searching for food, it uses its forked tongue to help it detect the chemical scents given off by prey (like a snake does). If a prey animal escapes the monitor’s initial attack, the lizard begins flicking its tongue much more rapidly. This helps the animal find the injured prey.

Males are very territorial and defend their home turf against other males, sometimes to the point where the two lizards engage in serious fights.

Savanna monitors are hunted in Africa both for their skin, which is used in leather products, and as a food source. The animals are also exported in great numbers for the pet trade. The savanna monitor is often found in pet stores in this country.